I’m not going to attempt to defend the actions of Martin Bashir in securing that infamous interview with Princess Diana twenty five years ago. He hasn’t, so I see no reason why I should.
What I would say is this: the idea that this interview led to her death two years later seems to me to be stretching a point a little too far. At the time, we all knew the marriage was an unhappy one. We also knew that Charles had continued his affair with Camilla for some time. There has always been doubt about the identity of Harry’s father. Frankly, it was only a matter of time before the marriage collapsed allowing both parties to hook up with whomever they chose to.
I understand and empathise with where Princes William and Harry (is he still a Prince now?) are coming from, with their statements and interviews about how the BBC are culpable. They’ve been fighting against press and media intrusion ever since their mother died, and rightly so.
The release of the Dyson report into the interview and how it was procured, along with the subsequent BBC Panorama programme which aired on Thursday night, gives them the scapegoat they so desperately need. Let them have their moment complaining about the way the BBC went about things back then: twenty five years have passed, none of the people involved are anywhere near the BBC anymore.
But what it also does is add more weight to the Government’s argument that Auntie needs reform, and by reform they mean never criticising them.
It always annoys me whenever I see some right-winger complain about left wing bias at the Beeb, for at the same time there is usually an opposing voice complaining about it being too right wing. And to my eyes, that means that the BBC must, generally, be getting the balance right: it simply isn’t possible for both viewpoints to be correct, so it must be the case that both left and right are getting equal coverage and criticism.
That said, the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, is generally perceived as a conduit to all things Tory. But for every Kuenssberg at the BBC there is at least one other journalist with the opposite political leaning; the problem is that the BBC are so scared of riling the Tories and being reformed they rarely dare let these voices bubble to the top.
What sticks in my throat is the way that the printed media has seized upon this, attacking the BBC, like they had absolutely nothing to do with Diana’s death. “It wasn’t us that chased her in cars and on motorcycles through Paris to her death, desperate for a snap with her and her current beau (not that any of them will mention this, of course), it was them bastards over at the BBC what done it.”
(Purists: Yes, I know that version isn’t on the Live at the BBC album, it’s on the Deluxe Edition of London 0 Hull 4, but posting a BBC session version was too delicious a prospect for me to resist and I needed a cover pic.)
Of course, our glorious leader was quick off the mark to criticise the BBC (dressed in what appeared to be a costume at best, his pyjamas at worst, with the words Prime Minister sewn into the breast, like a weird boy scout badge he’d earned; it may as well have said “Done a big boy’s wee” for all the gravitas it afforded him), stating that he hoped there were lessons the corporation would learn from the report.
Which, if you know his history, is a bit rich. For this Boris lecturing the BBC on journalistic standards, is the same Boris who, in his pre-political career, was sacked from his job at The Times over allegations he fabricated a quote from the historian Colin Lucas, for a front-page article about the discovery of Edward II’s Rose Palace.
After being escorted from the building at The Times, Johnson moved to The Daily Telegraph, where he worked as the publication’s Brussels correspondent between 1989 and 1994. It was here that he penned many of the “Euromyths” which entered into common parlance, including plans to establish a “banana police force” to regulate the shape of the curved yellow fruit, and the introduction of a ban prawn cocktail crisps, since they contained neither prawn nor cocktail in their ingredients. None of which were true, of course.
What the Dyson report does is to allow the Government to indulge in a bit of deflection. I’ve written before about the dead cat scenario, where, in times of trouble, a government or ruling body will say or do something so utterly strange as to make that the talk of the tabloids rather then the thing they were (probably) about to write about. This, however, doesn’t qualify for such a description, it doesn’t even qualify for “what-about-ery”, where one acknowledges something bad has happened but asks you to look at something if not worse then equally controversial instead (Example: “Yes, Labour did very well in Wales in the latest by-elections, but have you seen what happened in Hartlepool?”*).
No, the Dyson report comes at an absolutely perfect moment to allow the Government to move attention away from another report which was due to be released this week, but was blocked by your friend and nobody else’s, Priti Patel.
This report took an independent body eight years to complete, and looked into the private detective Daniel Morgan in 1987, who was found dead in a south London car park with an axe embedded in his head, and the subsequent botched attempts to solve his murder. No one has ever been convicted of his murder, but interestingly key suspects are alleged to have close ties to News International, and police investigations are thought to have been deliberately ineffective.
In case you’re unaware, News International is the company owned by Rupert Murdoch, under which such luminaries as The Sun, The Times and, at one time News of the World were published. You will doubtless recall the Levison enquiry, which found evidence of links between the press, the police and the Government, and which was supposed to have a second leg of the report until that was also shelved by the Conservative government. A bit like the report into Russian collusion into our elections, which was finally released in July 2020, albeit redacted to within an inch of its life.
But this report was looking at something far more sinister than phone-tapping: it was considering whether News International and the Metropolitan Police were complicit in actual murder.
Now what on earth could cause Patel – who has read the report – and who is part of a Government for whom Murdoch and News International are established cheerleaders – to react in such a way?
There’s also the small matter of the investigation into corruption and cronyism with the award of billions of pounds of contracts to companies with no experience or means to produce PPE items, which is going to happen, but not for another year, and even then Johnson will have the final say as to whether the findings should be made public or not.
It’s depressing, isn’t it? The way this Government is lining the pockets of their BFFs (and probably their own – there has to be something in it for them, right?) and yet certain pockets of our society see that and think: “Boris is funny and has funny hair. I’ll vote for his lot again”.
So perhaps we need a moment of levity, and thank the Lord, here to provide it is none other than oily snakeskin and pipedream salesman Nigel Farage.
For it emerged this week that good old honest pint drinking and self-proclaimed Fisherman’s Friend Nigel is currently touring America, giving talks to theatres he expected to be packed with Trump devotees, about how he is “Mr Brexit” – not exactly what I’d call him, to be honest – and how successful a politician he is *coughs*. It’s a self-congratulatory lap of honour of a slippery conman. Presumably his teleprompter at the speeches doesn’t scroll on as far as to mention the seven times he stood for election as an MP and was defeated, and definitely not far enough to reveal that on one of those occasions he was beaten by a man dressed as a dolphin.
And, thanks in no small part to national treasure and lead singer of The Charlatans Tim Burgess, the first night of Farage’s tour was a sell out. The problem was, that only 21 people actually turned up; it later transpired that of those, 6 were part of Farage’s group, and one was Farage himself, who had to deliver his speech to an auditorium designed for 3000 people but which actually contained just 14 people.
See, for once, Farage wasn’t looking to make money from the actual tickets – doubtless there was some merch available though: a pipe, a beer tankard with a frog’s face on it, a burning cross, you know the sort of thing – for he had made tickets free.
And my, how the (mostly) British public reacted:
Which seems to answer the question raised in this song:
*What happened in Hartlepool was this: Labour lost their seat for the first time since it was created. General consensus though, obtained via vox pops and exit polls, was that the good people of Hartlepool voted Conservative because they wanted change, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the very people they were voting in to bring change, just happened to be the same people who have been in power for the past eleven years. No wonder they hung that monkey.